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Independent Medical Examinations

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Independent Medical Examinations

An insurance company will probably not accept the results of your own doctor’s medical examination of your injuries. They will demand an independent medical examination (IME) by a doctor of their choice, not yours. IMEs are routine (and often required by the courts) if you:

  • File a personal injury lawsuit against an insured defendant;
  • Pursue arbitration against your insurance company for uninsured motorist benefits;
  • Seek MedPay benefits from your own auto insurance policy;
  • Suffer from more than one type of injury from the accident that triggered your claim; or
  • Experience a change in your medical condition while pursuing your claim.

In many cases, the insurance company’s purpose in demanding an IME is to reduce the amount of any pain and suffering damages you might assert.

What Is the Purpose of an IME?

The asserted purpose of an IME is to provide the insurance company with an “objective” medical examination of your injuries. The most important fact you must remember about “independent” medical examinations is that they are not necessarily truly independent. Insurance companies prefer doctors who function as their advocates, which is often exactly how it turns out. 

Doctors are paid well for IMEs, and those doctors who regularly report what the insurance companies want to hear are the ones who get repeat business from the insurance companies. 

Examples of IME Misconduct by the Examining Doctor

Any of the following actions should raise a red flag. Consult with your lawyer concerning the appropriate response if your doctor:

  • Devotes most of the “exam” to your medical history and very little time actually examining you. This might suggest that the doctor is looking for pre-existing conduction that caused your injuries.
  • Spens more time examining the rest of your body than examining your actual injuries.
  • Delegates most or all of the examination to subordinates while checking their cell phone or performing some other unrelated activity.
  • Acts unprofessionally or with a lack of courtesy.
  • Shows up late for the exam.
  • Refuses to review X-rays or the results of other diagnostic tests you brought.

Have your lawyer take notes of any of these activities or any other unprofessional behavior by the IME doctor.

Can Your Attorney Attend the IME With You?

Yes, and you should not attend an IME without your lawyer present. Your lawyer can help you enforce your rights and help protect you from IME doctor misconduct, as discussed above.

Your Rights During an IME

Under California law, you enjoy the following rights during an IME:

  • The insurance company or the doctor must schedule the IME reasonably close to your home.
  • You cannot be charged any kind of fee for the exam.
  • The party that ordered the IME (usually an insurance company) gets only one bite at the apple. They cannot schedule a second IME for the same condition if they don’t like the results of the first IME.
  • The doctor cannot bar your lawyer from attending the IME with you.
  • You have the right to see any correspondence between the doctor and the insurance company concerning your IME.
  • You have the right to receive a copy of the IME doctor’s written report.
  • You can dispute any of the contents of the IME doctor’s report. 

A complete listing of your rights in an IME would be too numerous to list here. An experienced personal injury lawyer will know them all.

Advice on How To Handle an IME

The following tips apply to almost any IME:

  • Never forget that the doctor is your adversary under these circumstances.
  • Remember that an IME does not establish a doctor-patient relationship. Consequently, doctor-patient confidentiality does not apply. The IME doctor can disclose anything you say, and the insurance company can use it against you.
  • Have your lawyer present.
  • Bring a recording device so that you can record the session.
  • Have your lawyer fill out any required paperwork. Don’t leave without copies of all paperwork you filled out.
  • Do not offer any information beyond what is required for the IME.
  • Do not allow the doctor to perform any diagnostic tests you have not already agreed to after consultation with your lawyer.
  • Have your lawyer take notes in the IME, including which tests the doctor gave.
  • Instruct your lawyer to intervene if the doctor asks you any inappropriate questions.
  • Stop the examination if it becomes physically painful. California law prohibits painful procedures during an IME.

Your lawyer should be more aware of your legal rights in an IME than you are, and they should aggressively enforce them.

Yes, You Need a Lawyer for an IME

Undergoing an IME is like being cross-examined by a doctor working for the opposing party. Don’t attempt to face it on your own. You could end up losing a claim you deserve to win, or you could win far less compensation than you deserve. An experienced personal injury lawyer from M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers can help to protect you from these adverse outcomes. Contact us today at (877) 300-4535, we offer a free consultation.